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Dream destination weddings

Design gurus Laurence and Jackie Llewelyn-Bowen launch romantic new wedding gardens in the Indian Ocean. By Cathy Howes

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A suite at Beachcomber’s Sainte Anne Resort, Seychelles

It’s 10 o’clock on a grey October morning and I’m having coffee with the Llewelyn-Bowens at the deeply stylish (naturally!) Dukes Hotel in St James. They’re here to talk about their latest design project – tropical wedding gardens for Beachcomber resorts – and they’re in ebullient mood.

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Y&YW: You had your own tropical wedding, I understand?
JL-B: Yes. Originally we had a classic, late-Eighties white wedding – church followed by a marquee where Laurence contrived a Hugh Grant fringe, although I went slightly subversive with a pair of purple shoes.
LL-B: Then, in the early Nineties, we were on a fact-finding tour in the Far East – Jackie was a wedding planner at the time – and we ended up having a Buddhist ceremony too. All red and pink outfits, with celestial string, chanting and everything.  It was very rock & roll, very Ab Fab.
JL-B: Very us!

Y&YW: So, tell us more about these new gardens?
LL-B: Well, no-one wants to get married on the beach in glaring sunlight with frizzy hair and wilting relatives, do they? So these spaces will be romantic and intimate; sheltered by a palm tree canopy so the sun peeks through, but everyone’s still in the shade.
JL-B: They’re made with hardwood flooring, too, so no more heels sinking in the sand.

Y&YW: Do you have a launch date?
LL-B: The first, at Sainte Anne Resort in the Seychelles (pictured), is all designed and work starts soon, so hopefully it will be available for spring/summer 2013. The next two projects after that will be the Dinarobin and Shandrani hotels in Mauritius.

Y&YW: All along the same lines?
JL-B: No, these aren’t cookie-cutter designs. We hope each will have its own identity depending on local geography and natural elements. Current plans are to design them in a horseshoe shape, built up at the sides to protect couples from sea breezes, with volcanic rocks, chandeliers in the trees and cooling water fountains.
LL-B: Think of them as organic marquees, facing out to sea but designed so that your guests look inwards and are focused totally on you, not distracted by German tourists in their budgie smugglers!

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The spa at Beachcomber’s Sainte Anne Resort, Seychelles

Y&YW: So you’re moving away from barefoot-on-the-beach-style?
LL-B: Sort of. We’re aware of a growing trend for more colonial glamour. That’s not to say couples aren’t still having castaway weddings, but many are looking for a little elegance too, with a more formal ceremony.
JL-B: The gardens will hold around 30 people with seating brought in. The idea is that you go down to the beach for photos after the vows and leave your guests in the shade on the decking.

Y&YW: And what about the finishing touches?
LL-B: We’ve selected a palette of colours to choose from and included things like optional chair covers and billowing muslin curtains, but this can all be finalised at the resort when you arrive. The only thing you need to plan in advance is the level of menu you want.
JL-B: And for a wedding in Mauritius, for example, you have to go into Port Louis to sort out the legal arrangements first, so it’s nice to arrive on the island about three days ahead to acclimatise. But even going into the town to do the paperwork feels glamorous. Very Burton and Taylor.
LL-B: Mind you we do tend to do everything a bit Burton and Taylor, darling.
JL-B: True, even down to putting out the bins!

Y&YW: You’ve obviously put a lot of thought in to this project?
LL-B: Of course! A wedding is such a big event and we hope couples will trust us to get it right. You know that famous quotation about not treading on people’s dreams…?
JL-B: “Tread softly because you tread on my dreams…”?
LL-B: Yes, that’s it, who said that, darling, was it Madonna?
JL-B: No, darling, it was Yeats.

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Time for me to tread softly back out into the drizzle of London’s Piccadilly, I think, inspired by the enthusiasm of the Llewelyn-Bowens and daydreams of sunnier climes! To learn more about holding your ceremony at one of Laurence and Jackie’s new tropical wedding gardens call 01483 445 621 or visit beachcombertours.co.uk.